Abu Dhabi, 21st December 2023: The Coordination Committee for the Conservation of the Arabian Oryx (CCCAO) recently held its seventh meeting in Abu Dhabi. Chaired by the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD), the meeting’s participants discussed ways to enhance joint regional cooperation to achieve the regional initiative’s goals of protecting the Arabian Oryx and preserving their natural habitats.
The Coordination Committee for the Conservation of the Arabian Oryx is led by EAD and comprises representatives from several range states in the Arabian Peninsula. The committee is mandated to intensify and coordinate efforts to protect the Arabian Oryx, whose range extends from Syria to the Yemeni-Omani borders and passes through the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.
Regional efforts made by the General Secretariat for the Conservation of the Arabian Oryx (GSCAO) were discussed during the meeting. This regional initiative, established in 2001, is concerned with coordinating the efforts and supporting initiatives that aim to preserve the Arabian Oryx in accordance with regional and international standards, in addition to highlighting the efforts made by range states in the region to protect Oryx and sustain their numbers.
During the meeting, GSCAO’s strategic action plan for the period 2022-2026 was also presented. The strategic plan included Arabian Oryx conservation priorities at the national and regional levels. Other items discussed included programmes and events to advance regional conservation efforts to international levels. The participants at the meeting also discussed national and regional challenges facing Arabian Oryx conservation efforts, proposing solutions, and outlining options to support GSCAOs’ programmess and initiatives.
The most recent surveys conducted by the GSCAO in 2023 recorded the presence of more than 10,000 Arabian Oryxes across range states – 8,000 of which are located in the UAE. Such numbers require a more enhanced regional coordination effort to determine priorities and procedures for managing these populations in accordance with the best scientific and international wild species conservation practices.
In his opening remarks, Ahmed Al Hashmi, Executive Director of the Terrestrial and Marine Biodiversity Sector at EAD, focused on the importance of joint regional cooperation among range states, as well as initiatives to increase Arabian Oryx numbers across its areas of historical distribution in the Arabian Peninsula.
This focus culminated in a unique success and historic achievement in 2011, when the Arabian Oryx was the first wild species to have its threat status improved from “extinct” to “vulnerable” on the threat scale for the categories of the Red List of Threatened Species issued by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). This success was a result of joint efforts to reintroduce Arabian Oryx in the region, which helped increase its numbers and save it from extinction.
Al Hashmi also highlighted the Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed programme to reintroduce the Arabian Oryx, which was launched in 2007 with the direct support and supervision of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE. Implemented by EAD, the programme aims to release the Arabian Oryx into their natural habitats across historical areas of distribution and establish viable populations that can independently survive desert conditions under effective conservation management plans.
Al Hashmi pointed out that EAD has leveraged its vast experience of wild species conservation and breeding, in addition to the lessons learned by the Agency from its Arabian Oryx reintroduction in the UAE. He reiterated that the cooperation of all range states, and the implementation of GSCAO’s strategic action plan of (2022-2026), will provide the necessary tools to achieve our goal of reintroducing populations of Arabian Oryx in areas where they were previously extinct.
He commended the role of the CCCAO, which was established in recognition of the various challenges faced by the range states in breeding and re-introducing the Arabian Oryx, as a key step taken by the region’s countries to coordinate preservation efforts and establish sustainable, free-ranging herds in natural habitats in the Arabian Peninsula.
Al Hashmi highlighted the role of CCCAO’s General Secretariat in implementing the Strategic Action Plan 2015-2019, which achieved many of its objectives, including the exchange of information and enhancement of technical capabilities of Arabian Oryx conservationists to promote their skills and expertise in line with international standards.
During the meeting, the General Secretariat’s new and enhanced website www.arabianoryx.org was launched. The platform aims to establish and enhance continuous communication with the institutions concerned with Arabian Oryx conservation in the range states and other international conservation organisations.
The new website features the latest data, information and reports sourced from Arabian Oryx institutions, and contains publications by CCCAO’s General Secretariat which contribute to building technical capabilities and competencies in conservation and management practices of Arabian Oryx populations and supports the promotion of these practices to the highest international standards.
CCCAO’s General Secretariat is the main regional platform for obtaining accurate information regarding Arabian Oryx conservation efforts in the range states. It also deals with inquiries and questions from visitors and researchers interested in Arabian Oryx conservation and enhances regional environmental awareness on the conservation of the Arabian Oryx, as well as initiatives that support breeding, reintroduction and release efforts.
The meeting also discussed a proposal to agree on general criteria and conditions for selecting the national coordinator of the CCCAO's General Secretariat in the range states and determined the coordinator’s tasks and regional roles in a manner that serves the implementation of GSCAO’S 2022 – 2026 strategic action plan.